Red Cross harmonizes with Concert Board

The Acappella Festivella was an occasion of full of laughter and mirth. On stage performers sang and danced while a Red Cross flag loomed in the background, a specter of those left in need by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

The University of Alaska Anchorage Concert Board worked in conjunction with the Alaskan Red Cross, donating 20 percent of the gross proceeds from the event to the American Red Cross Liberty Fund. The fund supports those displaced by the terrorist acts of Sept. 11.

The event garnered the attention of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who believed the concert was something that needed to be done.

"Every American ought to dedicate themselves to try and find someway to frustrate terrorists," Stevens said.

The event lured 620 people to the Wendy Williamson Auditorium and pulled in $400 for the Red Cross at the door, with more money from ticket outlets yet to be tallied.

Kelly Hurd, community relations director for the Southcentral Alaska Chapter of the American Red Cross, said she was excited because the Concert Board donated 120 tickets to Alaskan Red Cross for volunteers and staff.

"The volunteers have been pulling long hours, and it¹s nice for them to be able to have recognition," she said.

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Stevens may have been the big name at the Festivella, but emcee Sith Khamvongsa did his best to steal the show. In prefacing the event, a giddy Khamvongsa got the crowd worked up for the performance.

"Let us not remember this as a dark moment in American history, but rather a bright shining moment in humanities history when people from all walks of life came together," he declared.

Local opening act The Frozen Pipes showed the audience that a barbershop quartet can still get a crowd warmed up. Describing themselves as the hitmen of love the Pipes attempted to serenade both the audience and the sign language interpreter with their 1950s style ballads.

"Helping others is what it¹s all about," said the Pipes founding member Steve Stripling.

The House Jacks took the stage next and started with a mixture of beatboxing and harmonizing before turning to the crowd for requests. A particularly spirited group near the right of the stage managed to get their request for "Play That Funky Music White Boy" preformed first. Subsequent songs performed went from silly, Vanilla Ice¹s "Ice Ice Baby," to serious with the Righteous Brother¹s "Unchained Melody." They closed with a version of the national anthem that put audience members on their feet with hands over their hearts. The crowd stayed on their feet and enticed The House Jacks to come back on stage for an encore.

A visibly shaking Garth Kravits dedicated "So Far Away" to a friend of his that lost their life in the second World Trade Tower. The song was performed without the aid of microphones, allowing the group to become more intimate with the crowd.

"Performing that song was something I really wanted to do. It echoes the sentiments of a lot of people who are missing friends. It was a nice moment," Kravits said, his red eyes betraying the emotion of the moment.

Back from a tour in Japan, headlining group M-pact was dressed in boy band attire, and delivered a performance fit for MTV¹s Total Request Live. The group performed a mix of original songs including ballads and pop material. Closing up they segued into a song where each member performed as an instrument including bebopping, a bass guitar, synthesizer piano drum set and turntables.

An encore presentation of the national anthem was predicated by a request for people to rise to their feet and join in singing.

"It's about Americans together," said a band member who felt the sentiments carried in the tune could affect its performance.

"We don't know if we can make it through this song," he said.

"You can make it, we¹re with you!" replied an audience member.

The promise was held as the crowd and the band fused together and sang as a one celebrating America.

"It's not about us putting on a show for you to watch," explained singer Trist Curless. "It is something that you are a part of, we are sharing music with you."

The Festivella struck a chord with the attendees especially those who knew people in New York at the time of the attacks.

"Personally the benefit hits home for me because I am from New York. I'm glad the Concert Board decided to donate part of the proceeds to the Red Cross," said Student Activities Coordinator Dionne Myers.

The Concert Board managed to assemble an event that capitalized both on the community¹s appreciation for acappella music and support for people in need.

"It¹s great that all these people came out to support. This is a testament to the strength of people in this country that is an example for the rest of the world," said House Jack¹s member Bert Bacco.

More information about the Red Cross can be found at http://www.redcross.org or by calling 1-800-helpnow.